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Alternative Dance

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Alternative Dance is a style of music that combines the alternative-ness (and sometimes the guitars) of Alternative Rock with the, well, danceability of Electronic Dance Music. No more, no less.

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It's a very eclectic genre, since Alternative Rock and Electronic Music are quite varied in and of themselves, but there are certain common threads: a greater emphasis on songwriting than in typical dance music (if such a thing can be said to exist); generally conventional (verse/chorus) song structures; lyrics that reflect the influence of Alternative Rock and are thus likely to be darker and/or more complex than those found in Dance Pop; and often (though not always) some combination of Rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums) and electronic music. Alternative rock in general has always been more open to non-rock influences than mainstream rock, with dance music having a significant Periphery Demographic of alternative rock fans, largely owing to the continuing popularity of alternative dance. The genre has also served as a mutual Gateway Series for fans of dance music and alternative rock into each other's genres. The overlap between alternative and dance goes back to the late disco era, when New Wave Music was played in discos as disco started to wane in the late '70s and early '80s and American rock radio largely shunned new wave before MTV came along. Talking Heads' appreciation for dance music showed in the band's rhythmic grooves and Joy Division managed to land on Billboard's disco chart with "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

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The genre first came into existence in the 80s in the aftermath of the mainstream success of New Wave Music and Synth-Pop. Arguably the first bands to play this style of music were Joy Division's successor, New Order (who virtually invented it on singles like "Temptation" and, most famously, "Blue Monday"), Depeche Mode (starting with Construction Time Again in 1983; earlier work is straight Synth-Pop or New Wave), Yazoo (formed by the original songwriter for Depeche Mode, incidentally), and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. These bands all combined electronic music with Post-Punk rock music and had somewhat more thoughtful lyrics than was typical of the Synth-Pop of the day. The latter three bands came from a Synth-Pop background, whereas New Order were rooted in the Post-Punk of their former incarnation as Joy Division. These two genres were the largest influence on Alternative Dance, at least early on. Also, these bands were all British, as were most of the prominent bands in the early history of the genre.

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The genre became popular fairly quickly, with bands landing hits on both mainstream and underground charts in England and Europe. In America, on the other hand, the genre was primarily successful on College Radio and in clubs, hence its association with Alternative Rock. Bands that achieved popularity in the later years of the '80s included Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Big Audio Dynamite (formed out of the ashes of Punk Rock band The Clash), and the entire Madchester (The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, etc.) genre, which combined Punk Rock and Psychedelic Rock with the music of the then-booming Acid House/Rave scene.

The genre continued into the 90s, with new bands (Saint Etienne, Republica, Garbage, Curve) forming and many older bands who were established in other genres moving towards it (Primal Scream, Everything But the Girl and, most famously U2, who embraced the genre on their huge hit Achtung Baby). Also, many of the older bands experienced their biggest hits at the turn of the decade- for example, Depeche Mode and New Order, who both finally broke into the American mainstream. The popularity of Grunge generally did little to hurt the genre, and it even provided influence for some (for example, Garbage)— many bands added heavier guitars as a result of Grunge and (to some extent) Brit Pop. The fact that alternative dance was in and of itself alternative likely helped its longevity, with the distinct uniqueness of its sound and ethos helping it survive the backlash against more typical synthpop.

The genre was closely related to Trip Hop, which often influenced it, especially in the 90s. In fact, many Trip Hop bands can be classified as Alternative Dance as well. By nature of its inception, it's also closely related to Synth Pop, which was a major influence on and continues to be to this day, and to a lesser degree, to Dream Pop, Dark Wave and Industrial (especially the more danceable end of it; among other examples, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor openly compared the band's first album to Depeche Mode).

Alternative dance's ties to club and DJ culture helped keep vinyl afloat during the '90s and early 2000s, particularly in the form of the 12-inch single, before the "vinyl revival" starting in the late '00s. It also helps that alternative rock artists, labels and fans in general had embraced vinyl during that time even as the format was mostly abandoned by major labels.

The genre continues to go strong, with many Indie Rock bands (i.e. LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, M.I.A.) playing it. Many of the recent Dance Punk/New Wave revival bands can be considered to belong to this genre as well. Alternative dance is also a key influence in Future Funk, which takes vaporwave and gives it a more danceable edge.

As time has went on, the genre's sound has become more diverse, as newer genres of Electronic music have often been incorporated by new bands. However, the basics of the genre haven't changed much since the 80s.

Alternative Dance artists include:


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